So, those of you who know me probably know these three things about me: I am Italian. I am Finnish. I like to cook.
To be more precise, though, I am three-quarters Italian (half of it siciliana, the other half napolitana for those of you who like to get that deep and can appreciate the irony), one-quarter Finnish (if we actually spoke Finnish, I could tell you, in one word, that my mother's father was Finnish), and finally, I "like" to cook as in I "like" to breathe.
My heritage has always been important to me. My grandparents were the first of my family to be born here, and I feel like I've been raised with some aspects of the immigrant mentality. I'm working hard to not forget my roots. But growing up across the country from those roots meant that some of our family traditions didn't really get preserved, but hopefully I can re-establish them in my own little family and hand them down to my son. Once he gets old enough to chop, of course.
On the heritage note, I've always liked that my maiden name, when taken together, is three-quarters Italian and one-quarter Finnish, like me! So, I got this crazy idea in my head. Maybe--and we'll see how long this lasts--I will cook Italian food for nine months of the year and Finnish food for the other three. I'm hoping that if I dedicate myself thoroughly, I will be able to absorb each style of cooking as one might absorb a language, and be able to use it fluently to feed my family and share my culture with those who come to break bread in our home.
First thing up is gravy! Noooo, not the brown stuff you put on turkey or the white stuff you put on biscuits. Sicilians call tomato sauce gravy, and I purchased TWENTY POUNDS (yow!) of tomatoes at the farmers market today to make it from scratch. Eek!
So far, I have blanched, peeled (which was much more fun than I was expecting) and cored those mo-fos and they are now in a giant bowl in my fridge, waiting for the next step.
But what *is* the next step? I was thinking of doing some canning, but I'm still a little freaked out about that. All that acidity stuff and botulism totally freaks me out. So methinks we will freeze this. But am I going to go crazy traditional? That would mean making meatballs or getting sausage and cooking them in the sauce, to flavor it. But what I'm really pondering doing to make my very most favorite thing my gramps used to make: braciole.
Now, to my college Italian-trained ear that word looks like bra-CHO-lay. Which is why it took me forever to learn how it was really spelled, since it's actually said bra-- uh, hmm, how do I explain this? bra-ZHOL? Bra-JOLE? Bra-SHOL? the second consonant sound is like the J in "bonjour." You know, you kinda let it slide a little as you say it. Does that help?
But do you really care how it's pronounced? I'm sure what you're really wondering is: What in tarnation is it?
And that, m'dears, is for another day.